Elephant in the Room

I guess a lot of people have things that they don’t like to talk about. Things that make them uncomfortable or that dredge up bad memories or feeling from the past.

In my house and for me in particular it is my Nan.

Nanny on my Mum’s side of the family died of cancer around 8 years ago. She was ill for a while and her health deteriorated rapidly, so by her 60th Birthday, it had spread to her brain.
We have a picture on the mantelpiece. It was after the family party and she’s wearing a red dress that my Mum had bought her from Marks & Spencer with little white flowers on it. All aubern hair, she is surrounded by about 50 bunches of flowers and has the most beautiful smile on her face. But she can’t see them and couldn’t see her loving family at the party, blind from the cancer.
She died a few weeks later.

I remember, i was out with my friends. I was too young to be drinking, so a bunch of us had told our parents that we were going to someone’s house. We were on the local common drinking Diamond White out of the cans that i’d bought becasue i looked the oldest. I rang my Dad to tell him that i’d be a bit late home and was surprised when he said that was ok… usually i would have been in trouble.
When i got home, my Dad cuddled me and said that she had died and that my Mum had been with her. I wanted to go and see her to say goodbye but my parents said it wasn’t a good idea. I was supposed to be there that night, but i’d been more interested in going out and drinking illegally. I didn’t get to say goodbye.

It hit my Mum hard. I had never seen her so upset, sitting and crying, listening to the songs that my Nan had asked to be played at the funeral. I couldn’t talk to her about it. All i could do was hug her and try and make it a bit better.
I read a poem at the funeral and everyone said how brave i was. For me, it wasn’t bravery, i was trying to make up for not having been there.

Still now, eight years on, my Mum can’t talk about it without crying.
And i’ve never had anyone to talk to about how I felt.

13 thoughts on “Elephant in the Room

  1. Pete says:

    That’s so sad, Buttons. I really don’t know what to write, you shouldn’t punish yourself for not being there, you clearly dearly loved your Nan, and I am sure she knew that, and I’m sure that she’d be proud of some of the things you do now that you may not do if you hadn’t had the experiences you had with her.


  2. Buttons says:

    thanks Pete. when it started that wasn’t a sad entry!!

    do you have any elephants that you can’t talk about?


  3. don’t get too upset about not sayig goodbye. Loving someone is not about whether or not you were there at the final moments, those moments are just a few moments in a whole lifetime. Your nan will have known you loved her by all the OTHER moments that you DID get to spend with her. She will have had the memories of you as a baby, walking, calling her nan for the first time and the joys of seeing you grow up – not being there right at the end is just a small part of your relationship with her. She’ll have known you loved her and she loved you no matter WHAT you were up to at the time.


  4. amillionpieces says:

    Not particularly, I don’t think. Maybe I’ve just succesfully blanked them!


  5. Olivia says:

    Thing is, you couldn’t have known. But perhaps that experience made you more thoughtful in future?

    Anyway, you could have been anywhere, you could have been at school. But of course I understand that you feel bad about that particular choice, and that saying goodbye means a lot. However, you have her memory to cherish.


  6. lilo says:

    You mustn’t feel bad that you didn’t say goodbye. Even if you had been there, you would have never said all the things you wanted to say – that’s the thing about death and grieving – it continues because you wish that person was still there.


  7. Um, don’t know if this will help. Started writing, couldn’t stop. x

    My Nan is the only person I’ve ever lost. The thought that this won’t be the case forever terrifies me. She died 12 years ago just as I had started a new job. She’d been in and out of hospital for about a year. The last time I saw her, she was in hospital on a ward of ladies. She was in good spirits, but the “poor old ladies” on the ward were driving her a bit mad with their constant moaning. She was 89 – the old ladies she spoke of were all at least 25 years younger!

    Of all the time I had with her, this comment has stuck with me more than anything. She was the only grandparent I ever knew, and was there for us all the time growing up – intermediating with mum, stroking my hair (something I’ve never found a girlfriend with the patience for!) for hours on end when I was a small man, and just being generally brilliant. I never understood when my friends didn’t want to visit their grandparents, when mine was so cool.

    I wasn’t there to say goodbye, and her passing didn’t hit me for a while because of it. But now, looking back, I’m glad I wasn’t. Something about the way it all happened means that she always feels like she’s still there, and I can remember her as a witty, unbelievably young-minded lady forever. Your photo may bring bad sad memories of how she was, but it’s a lovely thing to look at knowing how much she was and is loved. Try not to beat yourself up about missing her final night anymore, you were young and enjoying yourself and carefree (although I hope you quickly learned that Diamond White is not a good look), and I reckon she probably was very happy about that.


  8. Catherine says:

    That must be hard. I’m sorry for you, Buttons, and yet I’m glad you expressed your feelings about it over your blog. I hope it helps a little.


  9. Tabitha20 says:

    I think it’s horrible seeing your parents upset. I find that’s the hardest part top deal with.

    It’s always good to have a slightly anonymous forum to express your feelings because otherwise you would just go crazy and get really sad. Although your Mum is still hurting from losing her Mum and can’t express those feelings, is it some consolation that you can express how you feel here?


  10. Buttons says:

    thank you Cookie. i think now, it is less guilt and more sadness that i wasn’t there to say goodbye.
    Olivia, yes. but now i get those funny feelings all the time that something isn’t quite right and i panic!
    Lilo. i guess becasue i wasn’t there, like Bubble man says, i can kind of go on like she is there and i just haven’t seen her for a while
    Bubble Man. it’s nice that you have that image of her and not as someone being ill.
    i’m terrified now of losing my parents and it sometimes makes me catch my breath and i have to push it from my mind.
    you never found a gf to stroke your hair? bad girlfriends!!
    Catherine and Tabitha. Yes blogging helps a lot i think. Just being able to put it down in words helps a great deal


  11. hamlet says:

    Hey buttons. Just catching up. This is a sad (but beautifully written) entry. I’m sorry to hear this but I agree with the others, your Nan knew you loved her and that was the most important thing.

    Thanks for sharing this. Although it is waking up up some of my elephants…


  12. Buttons says:

    oh dear. i didn’t mean to wake up your elephants, although, sometimes facing them can help 🙂


  13. […] I would go back in time to the night my Nan died…and I’d be there. I felt guilty for years. I felt selfish for having been out with my friends. […]


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